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In film and video, ambience is the sound present in a particular scene or location. It’s also known as Background noise, Natural sound, Atmospheric sound, Atmosphere, or Atmos.

  • Function: Additional elements, not necessarily continuous, which help to realize a location. 
  • Visibility: Ambient sounds (or sources thereof) may be seen on camera but may not have any specific on-screen actions associated with them. An EKG machine in a hospital room beeping at regular intervals in the distance is an ambience. A close-up of the screen with a specific tempo that needs matching is not.
  • Examples: Random office phone ringing loops, babbling river, walla, rain
  • Rules:
    • It’s often hard to distinguish an ambience from a background. The main difference is, ambience may come and go depending on the story or distance from the camera. Let’s say we find ourselves in a forest with a waterfall in the distance. As we approach the waterfall, the sound would increase in volume. The second you find yourself needing to add a fade, pan, or volume graph to something that exists steadily in a scene, you should realize you are cutting an ambience and not a background. 
    • Another distinction between ambiences and backgrounds is that ambiences will often time need to be ‘cut for perspective.’ If we suddenly jump the camera 100 yards away from the river, that jump needs to be reflected with a perspective cut on your river sound to reflect the sudden change in volume. Backgrounds are never cut for perspective.

Attribution: Boom Box Post

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